I love watching the NFL Draft. In fact, I have made it a point to watch each of the last five drafts in their entirety all the way from pick one to "Mr. Irrelevant."
Yes, I still do have a life, but I think the draft is an event that deserves the necessary attention. The players picked on those two days will undoubtedly be the future of the NFL, whether we want to believe that right now or not.
The best of college football's upperclassmen (that means juniors and seniors Mike Williams and Maurice Clarett) sit patiently either in the draft "green" room, which most of the time is blue anyway, or by the phone with their families. It's great watching that type of drama unfold before these athletes ever put on a jersey.
However, the 2008 version of the draft does not leap out at me like it has in the past.
Yes, of course there are very good players—that goes without saying. But, does anyone else see a potential franchise-face in this group of youngsters outside of Arkansas RB Darren McFadden, who will not even be selected in the top three?
I could be wrong, but it's not registering in my cranium.
Take the Miami Dolphins. It's a brand new cast with VP of football operations Bill Parcells, head coach Tony Sparano, and VP of college and pro scouting Jeff Ireland, both of whom Parcells thefted from Jerry Jones in Dallas.
Sparano has never had head coaching experience on the pro level, but by all accounts is indeed a Parcells guy, and will attempt to instill visions of a powerful running game returning with Ronnie Brown and a stalwart defense...still a lot of work to do on that one.
The Dophins are reported to have been talking contract figures with Michigan OT Jake Long to become the #1 pick.
Not that Long isn't the best OL in this class right now (he'd be second to USC's Sam Baker if Baker didn't suffer a mid-season injury, but I digress), but he is not in the same class as last year's stud Joe Thomas from Wisconsin (who had a phenomenal year) or even D'Brickashaw Ferguson from Virginia who was taken 4th overall by the Jets in 2006.
Long, at 6'7" 315 lbs., has the physical makeup to be something special. But there are concerns that he takes plays off and plays down to his competition. Those could possibly be the images of him destroying smaller competition from Appalachian St. (who beat the 'Rines at the Big House), then getting beat on a national stage against Ohio State's Vernon Gholston and Florida's Derrick Harvey, who will both be selected in the first round in a few weeks.
It seems like the best option for the Fins would be to trade down and address all of their needs...which are a laundry list.
Then, there's Glenn Dorsey.
Dorsey (along with McFadden, who we will get to later) will be my exception for this not-so-spectacular class. I think from top-to-bottom, the LSU product is the most complete player in this class.
Dorsey dominated his competition at integral junctures last season, even though it didn't always show up on the stat sheet. If he wasn't accruing more and more tackles, QB pressures, or sacks, he was taking up multiple blockers and disrupting protection schemes which allowed guys like Tyson Jackson, Ali Highsmith, Darry Beckwith, and Luke Sanders to become all-conference players.
I think he could be a great fit for anyone in the top 10, although it looks more and more like he will go to the Rams at number two.
Now, let's talk about Matt Ryan, the Boston College quarterback.
I know he is being incredibly hyped of better-than-average mobility, intelligence, and arm strength, but honestly, what quarterback who is expected to be taken in the top 10 doesn't have every tool in the book year in and year out? If Carson Palmer had an OK arm, would he have gone number one? If Eli Manning didn't possess the intangibles to kick it in when it mattered most, would he have gone number one?
That might have held true before this year...but Eli was just surreal in the playoffs and Super Bowl.
I don't see a potential Pro Bowler in Matt Ryan. Apparently Todd McShay does, but I think you could get a QB down the line that could be a much better professional player.
Brian Brohm from Louisville, Andre' Woodson from Kentucky, Chad Henne from Michigan, and Joe Flacco from Delaware, I think, will all have more success than Ryan. I could very well be wrong, but I am not buying what on the shelves in Ryan's market.
On to Run DMC.
We've heard all the character issues. Drop it.
This guy is legit and ready to star in the NFL. He possesses the power and more flat-out speed than Adrian Peterson did coming out last season. I'll give Peterson the edge on explosiveness (he could go through steel), but I think that McFadden is stronger and has amazingly agility for as big as he is in the upper body.
He teamed with Felix Jones (who will also go in round one) to form the best one-two punch in the nation. Think about what he could do in the league...I like what I'm seeing.
In fact, I think RB is the deepest position in the draft this year. Along with McFadden and Jones, there's Illinois' beastly Rashard Mendenhall, the extremely agile and quick Jamaal Charles, Rutgers mighty-might Ray Rice, and Oregon's Jonathan Stewart, even though the latter will be missing at least six months after toe surgery.
There's other players who are expected to go high in the draft like the aforementioned Gholston and Harvey, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from Tennessee State, Clemson DE Phillip Merling, LBs Keith Rivers (who I like a lot) and Penn State's Dan Connor, DT Sedrick Ellis from USC who moves like a feather for his size, and WRs Devin Thomas from Michigan State, Malcolm Kelly from Oklahoma, Limas Sweed from Texas and James Hardy from Indiana.
Does anyone out of that group really jump out at you as a potentially roster-altering player?
I think alot of these guys are overrated, especially Gholston and Thomas. I don't add Cromartie to that list because a guy out of a D-II school who can go this high has to be worthy. Plus, the last Cromartie to go in the first round (CB Antonio from Florida St.) had 10 INT last year and went to the Pro Bowl.
As usual, I will enjoy watching to see who goes where. I will also continue to love college football and the passion that teams play with in atmospheres of incredible tradition.
But, I'm not going to bust down the door when I hear that Jake Long has been selected number one. I won't do any handstands or cartwheels or jump so high that my head gets lodged in the ceiling.
I think we have been given a much better story line in the past with better talent. I just hope that those who I don't think offer much at the next level will come through and continue to make the NFL the greatest professional league in the world.
That's what I hope...that and the Skins getting past the first round of the playoffs. But hey, they have draft picks this year. I think I'll go bust down the door.